Very recently, I was given the opportunity to read one of Susan Day's other books in the Astro's Adventures series, Astro is Down in the Dumps, by way of a Smashwords coupon code. I obtained a copy of this with a coupon code also. Regardless of receiving a free copy, this review is just my honest thoughts on the book and I mean no offense to anyone.
An evil cat, Speed Bump Charlie, has taken a trip out to a remote part of the ocean. He dives deep and soon finds the object he seeks. Meanwhile, in another part of the ocean, a group of dogs have just completed an assignment. They are part of The Organisation, a group of dogs which saves dogs from neglect, set them free from animal shelters and protect everyone from general mistreatment. Unfortunately, they've just received words from a superior that something has happened to the moon. It has somehow been destroyed and NASA now relies on this group of dogs to go into space to find a replacement. Have a read to find out what happens!
I don't think the ending seems practical, either; it's left in a position which doesn't actually end the story. Instead, it only opens up a new story, leading into the next book. This might be a bit disappointing for children if they do not have access to the next book. Likewise, they might not understand if they do not have access to the prior book. I don't think it's easy to follow if one has not read the book before it; the author doesn't really explain the prior story to the book very well. Obviously there's some sort of plot involving Neptune's trident and the hunt for it in the ocean but, not having read it, those aspects just seem confusing. Beginning isn't explained very well. In the beginning, he has a stereotypical supervillian rant. However, it seems as if he's still underwater when he does it. Yet, in the next imagery we have for it, he's not wearing some sort of gear to allow him to do that (that we know of so far). Also, I know it's a kids' book, but there really ought to be some sort of reasonable explanation as to how he can swim down deep into the ocean without any proper gear, breath and even talk beneath the surface. It later turns out that he has some sort of amulet that allows him to do it, but it is only explained after he has left the ocean.
Okay, so from what I understand The Organisation is a group of dogs that help other dogs; they help the neglected and rescue them from shelters (from one specifically called Check Out, which I assume is a slight comment that it might put down the animals that can't be helped). So... Why are this group of dogs in charge of helping find a replacement for the moon? The explanation in the book: “NASA wants The Organisation to find a replacement for the Moon. They are saying it’s our fault it was destroyed, well, sort of." What? That makes little sense. Admittedly, they're very special dogs. However, they're still just dogs and have no training in that manner. Realistically, it's a very stupid idea to have these dogs sent into space. The people in real life who go into space go through rigorous training which can often take years. I looked it up on Wikipedia and this is a quote: "At NASA, following the selection phase, the so-called “AsCans” (Astronaut candidates) have to undergo up to two years of training/indoctrination period to become fully qualified astronauts. Initially, all AsCans must go through basic training to learn both technical and soft skills." That's a bare minimum of two years. However, these dogs seem to have little training. Essentially, they're given one briefing on the matter at hand, fitted for space suits and then sent off in a rocket. They have little idea of the proper way to run the ship (even manage to accidentally send themselves off course), let alone to ration the food. Especially considering that they accidentally get themselves lost with little idea on how long their food might last. It just seems even sillier because, rather than worry that necessary food has been eaten already and they might perish because of it, they begin to mock the dog that ate the sausages.
I'll move on to that point separately now. A lot of the conversation, on both good and evil sides, seems to rely a lot on bullying. Speed Bump Charlie not only bullies Furball, but also many other creatures, mocking these characters and even whole species because he doesn't believe they are a smart as he is. The dogs mock Alfie often and, in space seem to have teamed up against him, making fun of because of his overeating and for his farting. Which, I might point out, saved their lives so maybe they ought to be just a little bit grateful.
Keeping in mind that I have little knowledge of the other books in the series (this one is number eight); it just isn't properly explained about why Speed Bump Charlie is so evil. There's a minor explanation that, in The Great War, he was against the dogs that had stopped a truck and he had a mission to help his party. Apart from that, his only other reason in the book seems to be his comment that the dogs spoilt his fun. He seems to be an overly stereotypical character, like the evil characters in movies. As soon as he's found what he's been looking for at the bottom of the ocean, he launches into a long rant about how his plan has worked and then laughs evilly. It's somewhat cliché and not at all original in that respect. It is not properly explained as to the kitten who finds him burying something on the beach. -“You look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?” Speed Bump Charlie asked. “I think you’re my daddy!” the kitten smiled broadly up at the old cat.- Admittedly, yes it does explain that the kitten thinks that Speed Bump Charlie is her father. However, she gives no reason for why she might think this. From what I gather, it is little more than the fact that they both look similar. The reply only gives one answer, but presents many more questions. Also, I think that this type of thing might be a touchy area for some children. Some of the kids might find Furball relatable because a parent of their own might not be in their lives and might be considering such a meeting of their own. However, in the same respect, it might also be upsetting if the child has been rejected by a parent in such a manner. All in all, I consider the fact that Furball might be a child of Speed Bump's completely irrelevant. It provides little interest to the plot and the kitten could essentially be any stray Speed Bump finds on the street. The story might be improved in such an event, being that there would not be any questions of paternity to annoy the plot. Regardless, I think that the author is trying to make Speed Bump Charlie unnecessarily evil. Because his evil plot is not completely explained, they're using other reasons to try and get us to dislike him, such as using him as some sort of absentee parent and one that rejects his own child (if Furball is indeed as such). I kind of understand Speed Bump's rejection of the kitten, actually; Furball is essentially some kid who turns up out of a random set of bushes and thinks the first person she sees is her father, with no proof other than that they look alike. It doesn't make sense.
Going back to discussing the space mission, I'd like to point out that I know I have been sort of ignoring it in this review. However, I'd like to comment that it also kind of takes a back seat in the book as well. Speed Bump's adventures in the book obviously take precedence in the story. However, I think that the whole space adventure was just absurd. I think it weird that their concern for their own planet outranks the needs of another planet. They know that the destruction of the moon is a bad thing for Earth because of the climate and especially the tidal changes that they will experience with it being gone. However, they dogs seem to think it's okay to go and travel to another planet to steal a new one. Admittedly, there are aliens that actually live on the moon that say it's okay for them to do. However, it just seems that no-one really considers the ill effects this might have on both Jupiter and the aliens. A moon missing from Jupiter might have untold problems that the dogs have not considered, just like how the Earth moon affects tides. Also, the aliens might not be able to survive in such a different area of space. They might not be able to deal with the changes in either gravity or light, let alone the differences in temperature (remember: the moon would be closer to the sun).
The overall story relies on silliness rather than proper plot or character development. The characters are stereotypical. The plot has no proper explanation and makes little sense beyond the fact that dogs are now going to space with no training and little instruction, to steal a moon from another planet with no thought as to how it might affect either Jupiter or the aliens located on that moon. To be honest, it just seems kind of embarrassing to have Alfie save the whole crew by farting. It just seems like he was only there to provide some sort of sick humour; that the crew insist on bullying him he then saves the day by doing something embarrassing for everyone (so much so that "No one mentioned the incident again"). After he had saved all of their lives, they go right back to bullying him again. The bullying and ill feelings of other characters is fairly prominent. Some of the goings on in the book are a bit advanced for some children; the book derives several portions of the plot from real life events, like mention to "The Great War" and Speed Bump Charlie's part to play in it. Though, I think that in some ways it might be more appropriate for younger children; the overall story relies on silliness.
Admittedly, it was an alright book if one completely ignores the ridiculousness of the writing. The thing is that I could probably accept dogs going to space, but not in such a silly manner. I could probably accept a cat trying to take over the world, but the book gives us little reason as to why he does it so it just seems silly. I could probably even accept that Furball might be the child of Speed Bump Charlie, but the story gives no proper explanation to the idea, so it just seems incredibly irrelevant. I'm could probably accept the book much better if many of the motives and actions were explained better the characters were less stereotypical. I think it's worth three stars. I know it's a book for kids, but there still ought to be some practicality in all of it. Again, this is just my honest opinion on it and I mean no offense.